Solar Power Back-up Systems
Emergency Power Wherever the Sun Shines

Solar Power Back-up Systems are far from the only type of emergency back-up system available. You can also use a gas powered system, an electric-battery powered system, or one using some other type of fossil fuels such as propane, heating oil, or natural gas.

In fact, emergency power generation is only limited by your imagination, and the technology to turn your power source into useable energy. If all you need is heat, a campfire might be considered a type of emergency power back-up system.

So as solar power back-up systems are discussed, we'll be comparing them with other available types of emergency back-up systems.

However, before discussing their advantages, let's be sure we have a clear understanding which parts make up this type of emergency back-up system.

Solar Power Back-up Systems
Needed Parts

  1. Solar Panels- This is what distinguishes your back-up system from any other. The solar panels will be one of the most expensive parts of the system, but they will also qualify you for a 30% federal rebate on the cost of your system. With that rebate figured in, the system may be cheaper than other types.
  2. Inverter -There are two major types of inverters available, pure sine wave, and modified sine wave.

    The modified sine wave are more economical, but they can cause major problems for electronics. Research carefully what effect a modified sine wave inverter would have on the things you need to power before deciding to economize in this area.

    Otherwise, you run the risk of having a system that won't power the appliances and electronics you need to use, or worse yet, one that ruins some of your electronics if you have to use it.

    Although the pure sine wave inverter is always more expensive, if you truly want an emergency system that will power whatever you want to use, it will be worth the additional investment.

    I've yet to personally install such a system, but all my research agrees, you do not want to economize on your inverter. This seems to be an area where you get what you pay for, and the inverter is the brains of your back-up system, so to speak.

  3. Batteries with a battery box - The important thing to understand is these are not your typical car batteries. They must be a deep cell battery designed for prolonged use and many charging/discharging cycles.
  4. Charge Controller- A charge controller should take care of two primary jobs, and possibly a few others depending on the type. It should keep your solar panels from overcharging your batteries, and it should also prevent the panels from drawing current from the batteries at night. This is called a reverse current flow. The simplest controllers only perform these two functions, but more complex controls may do several other things as well.

    When choosing a controller be sure to size it large enough to cover all your needs, if it is undersized, it could be a problem, and if you plan to enlarge the system in the future, it might be wise to buy a larger charge controller to begin with.

Some backup systems are designed to be charged from either AC power or solar panels. This type of system might have a few additional parts such as an AC charger, and a transfer switch, as well.

Solar Power Back-up Systems
Advantages

There are many advantages to solar backup systems. Those that occur to me off the top of my head are:

  • They are quiet.
  • They should be available in any emergency as long as the sun is shining.
  • They will provide power long term power, since sunshine happens on a daily basis.
  • Self contained systems are easy to set up.
  • They can be sized to meet varying needs from small portable systems, to large applications for residences or businesses.
  • They can be used for portable off-grid power as well as for emergency power back-up.
  • They can be set up to operate with an already existing grid-tied system, if a person so desires.
  • When federal and state rebates are figured in, they may be more economical than more conventional emergency back-up systems.
  • After the initial investment, they are far more economical to operate than other back-up systems.
  • They don't damage the environment.

Solar Power Back-up Systems
Disadvantages

  • The sun doesn't always shine. In emergencies caused by weather, it may not shine for several days in a row. This could affect your systems ability to provide you with emergency power.

  • The parts for solar backup systems are fairly expensive.

  • The batteries will require maintenance on a regular basis, but there will be maintenance required for any type of emergency power backup system, so it just depends on which type of maintenance you prefer.

Solar Power Back-up Systems
Considerations before Investing

  1. Plan carefully which things are most necessary to power in an emergency. Since backup systems are relatively expensive, you don't want to invest in more power than what you truly need for the emergency.
  2. Research carefully to be sure you are getting a solar power back-up system that will meet your needs, while not breaking your budget.
  3. While researching, don't be afraid to ask questions. If one person, or place can't answer your questions, keep asking until you find someone who can. If you don't understand things, you may not get the system that you need.
  4. Don't neglect comparison shopping. I'm sure there will be back-up systems available from Amazon, as well as many other online sites. They are available from home improvement stores such as Lowe's and Home Depot as well. If you take the time to research and comparison shop, you'll probably get the best value for your money.

  5. Don't forget to factor in federal and local rebates when figuring your cost. At times they will make solar power back-up systems more economical than gas generators, or just a simple battery back-up system without the solar panels.
  6. Get the highest quality solar power back-up system you can afford, since the higher the quality, the more power will be available to you when an emergency strikes.
  7. Be sure you know the guarantees and warranties for your system. Also check the stability of the company offering them. If the company that makes your back-up system is the next Solyndra, their warranty will be worthless.`
  8. Be sure you check out what maintenance your system will require, and make sure you know you're capable of performing it. If you don't maintain it well, it isn't likely to work when you an emergency actually occurs, and then you will truly have wasted your money.

Solar Power Back-up Systems
Cost, Availability, and Conclusions

These systems are readily available on the internet as I mentioned earlier. I'm sure they are available in home improvement stores as well. Costs will vary widely depending on the size of your system, and other options. I've seen systems for under $100 dollars, but I've also seen some that are $10,000. If you live in another country, I'm sure that price range will still hold true.

System cost should be directly related to three major variables. How many solar panels are included, and what is their composition? What type of inverter does the system include? And finally, what type of batteries are included, and what type of charge controller do they need? You can make up a system on your own, but unless you know a good deal about the individual components, and how they work together, you'll probably do better to get a system that is pre-packaged and designed to work together.

If you think you'd like to design and build your own system, please read the pages I've written about do it yourself solar power before making up your mind. You'll get a lot of good information there, and it should give you a better idea about whether you are up to building your own system or not.

No one can predict when, or where the next emergency will strike, but we all know they are a part of life. Solar power back-up systems enable you to face the next emergency knowing you'll have the needed power to provide for your necessities.

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